IRVING -- The year was different, the opponent was different, but it was happening again to the Dallas Cowboys.
They were at MetLife Stadium again, with about the same kind of lead, at about the same time of the game, with the whole country waiting for their collapse.
But this time, they came home with answers, not questions.
Their 24-17 victory against the New York Giants on Wednesday night gave the Cowboys tangible evidence that they can close out a game, that they can put the game in the hands of a running game, that they have a defense that is not just preseason pretty.
"I don't know if we proved that much," coach Jason Garrett said. "We went up there, and we needed to win a ballgame against a division opponent at their place, and it was a great challenge for us. But it is one game out of 16, and I thought our team did a good job of handling the different adversities throughout the ballgame, and that was a real positive sign for us."
Last year, the Cowboys didn't know if their quarterback could be trusted not to turn the ball over. Tony Romo had lost a fumble and thrown an interception in a season-opening loss to the New York Jets at MetLife.
Wednesday night, they trusted him to throw a third-and-10 pass that would seal the game.
The Cowboys know what they can do. At least, they're much closer to knowing than last year's team was at this point.
"I don't like to compare this year's team to last year's team. It's a different team," Garrett said. "I know what happened last night. I felt like we handled the situation well. Felt like we were in really good condition first and foremost throughout our team and got stronger through the ballgame in all three phases of our team."
Garrett said the Cowboys this year are in better shape than last year. That became clear when DeMarco Murray began giving the Cowboys control of the game.
The second-year back from Oklahoma ran 20 times for 131 yards and caught two passes for 9 yards. His 48-yard run set up a field goal that gave the Cowboys a 17-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
He ran for 111 yards in the second half. Last year against the Jets, the Cowboys had 64 yards rushing for the game as Murray, a rookie in his first game, had two carries for no yards.
"All the great runners that I've been around are guys that finish runs," Garrett said. "You think it's a 4-yard run; boy, he made 6. You think it's an 8-yard run; aw, he made a first down. He has that ability. You see that in space. There were a number of plays last night where he caught the ball in space, made a guy miss and before you know it, I'm calling a second-and-4 play."
Last year at MetLife, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 315 yards, and the Cowboys had a punt blocked.
Wednesday night, Eli Manning had 213 yards, and the Cowboys had no turnovers -- no punts, no nothing -- in the second half.
Garrett spread the credit around. But it kept coming back to Romo, the running game, the defense and demeanor.
"It's a hard environment to play in -- Super Bowl champs from last year, there was a lot of hoopla about the game, we are playing at their place," Garrett said. "It was not an easy environment, and I thought he and everybody on our football team just handled the good and the bad from the game and just kept playing, understanding it's a 60-minute game, and it turned out to be that."
It turned out to provide answers. Not questions.
Not this year.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760